America today is experiencing unprecedented levels of partisan division. And similar kinds of political polarization are affecting many countries in the world today. It is therefore probably not a coincidence that one of the questions we get a lot from listeners is, Did this kind of polarization and division happen in ancient democracies?

As far as we can tell, most of the city-states in the ancient Mediterranean that experimented with democracy (and there were hundreds of them) experienced some kind of civil strife at some point. In fact, it happened so frequently that all ancient Greek philosophers and historians studied the phenomenon and tried to understand its causes. The Greeks called this breakdown of social and political order stasis.

In this episode we explore the phenomenon of stasis, its causes, and the solutions that ancient thinkers offered to prevent it from happening. Our guest is Melissa Lane, Professor of Politics and associated faculty of Philosophy and Classics at Princeton University, where she is also the director of the University Center for Human Values. Her most recent book is called The Birth of Politics: Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why they Matter.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: To win a copy of The Birth of Politics, autographed by Melissa Lane, go to our Facebook page and share our latest post announcing this episode. Then go back to our page and send us a message with the word "shared" by March 10, when we will randomly select a winner.

The intro to this episode was provided by Nitin Sil of the Flash Point History podcast, a great show that has done series on Attila the Hun and the Punic Wars. Check out Flash Point History on your podcast app or click here.